Living with Celiac Disease

by Rebekah Scott
(last updated December 21, 2009)

Licorice. Soy Sauce. Pasta. Bleu cheese. BBQ sauce. What could these foods possibly have in common? The answer is that they are all off limits to anyone with Celiac Disease.

Celiac Disease is a digestive disorder that causes a severe immune reaction in the small intestine when foods containing protein gluten are consumed. For someone living with Celiac Disease, the only way to effectively manage this disease is through a very restrictive diet that does not incorporate any wheat gluten.

Over the years, Celiac Disease has gained more attention in the medical community and in the general population. It is now thought that 1 in every 100 Americans suffer from Celiac Disease, many completely unaware that they have the disorder until symptoms begin to manifest.

If diagnosed with Celiac Disease, the first thing to do is to find out which foods are off-limits to a gluten-free diet. Because gluten protein is such a common ingredient, this list will grow longer and longer as food labels are analyzed and further research is conducted. It's hard not to be daunted by all the foods that are suddenly out of the question, and though it may seem impossible to have a normal diet again, there is some good news.

As Celiac has gained more prominence, the availability and variety of gluten-free products has sky-rocketed. These days almost every major supermarket carries gluten-free products. In fact, they might even have a section specifically set aside for gluten-free foods and ingredients. Many of these foods will go unnoticed by people who don't have to deal with Celiac Disease, but a supermarket employee can be helpful in finding the gluten-free section. There you may find mixes for pancakes, pizza crust, and bread dough, soups, sauces and condiments, candy, and a host of other replacement food items that you can easily enjoy while on a Celiac friendly diet.

Outside of the gluten-free area, it is best to avoid any type of processed or pre-packaged food item. Even if a type of protein gluten such as wheat or rye isn't listed on the label, the item could have been manufactured in a factory that also makes food with gluten in them.

Plus, a nutrition label may not always list gluten, wheat, or rye as one of the ingredients because there are hundreds of different names for gluten-based ingredients. If you have Celiac and you still want to try your luck at processed or pre-packaged foods outside of the gluten-free section, compile a thorough list of not only the different types of gluten but also the different names a gluten-based ingredient may go by. These steps may seem extreme, but even the smallest amount of gluten can cause a painful flare-up of Celiac symptoms.

Life with a restricted diet is by far the more favorable option over a life riddled with the painful side effects caused by Celiac Disease. Knowledge of foods that are off-limits, and a constant awareness when shopping at the grocery store are crucial to successfully managing Celiac Disease. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, don't look at it as the end of the word, but the beginning of a new one without the painful complications of this disease.

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